28 December, 2011

Red-crowned Parakeet

Scientific Name: Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae

Population Estimate: 21K - 25K, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where prefers forested areas. Very rare in mainland forests, but common on Stewart Island and in sanctuaries.

Field Notes: All green parakeet with red crown, red eye, and red eye stripe. Violet blue on wing coverts. Yellow-crowned Parakeet similar but with yellow crown and without red eye stripe.

Personal Notes: Maori name Kakariki. First seen at Karori Wildlife Sanctuary and then later in the wild on Stewart Island.

12 December, 2011

Double-banded Plover

Scientific Name: Charadrius bicinctus

Population Estimate: 51K

Range / Habitat: Breeds in inland wetlands of New Zealand. Non-breeding birds form flocks and some migrate to Australia, Fiji.

Field Notes: Medium-sized plover. Breeding plumage as above with black neck band and broad, chestnut chest band (male bands darker than females). Non-breeding adults highly variable, losing facial markings and portions of bands. Non-breeding New Zealand Plover similar but no remnant bands across chest and having white cheeks.

Personal Notes: Seen at Onoke Spit. In New Zealand known as Banded Dotterel. Maori name Tuturiwhatu.

05 December, 2011

Eastern Rosella

Scientific Name: Platycercus eximius

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to Australia and Tasmania where it favors lightly wooded areas. Subsequently introduced to New Zealand where it is found primarily on the North Island.

Field Notes: Long-tailed parrot with red head and upper breast, cheeks white. Lower breast yellow. Back, rump, and flanks mottled yellow-green. Blue wings.

Personal Notes: Seen in the Wairarapa, Kenepuru, and even in the hills of Wellington outside Karori.

04 December, 2011

Little Black Cormorant

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

Population Estimate: 110K - 1M

Range / Habitat: In lakes, estuaries and harbors in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, and Paupa New Guinea.

Field Notes: Small cormorant, all black with sculpted appearance, grey bill, and green eye. Juvenile phase of Little Pied Cormorant has longer tail and yellow bill. 

Personal Notes: Known in New Zealand as Little Black Shag.

Spotted Shag

Scientific Name: Phalacrocorax punctatus

Population Estimate: 35K - 150K

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand, where found in estuaries, harbors, and coastal waters of both islands.

Field Notes: Large, slender cormorant with long brown bill, long tail, and yellow feet. Broad white stripe from above eye and down sides of neck. Light brown wings with darker spots. The white stripe and spotted wings differentiate from Great Cormorant and Australian Pied Cormorant.

Personal Notes: We first saw this bird on the Otago Peninsula, later found it in Wellington Harbour, and finally found a "colony" at Oamaru (top photo). Maori name Parekareka.

Rock Dove

Scientific Name: Columba livia

Population Estimate: 260M

Range / Habitat: Originating from the rocky coastline of the British Isles, this species is now found in cities around the world.

Field Notes: Unmistakable given the habitat, though the bird has a variety of plumages.

Personal Notes: We finally took this photo in Wellington, New Zealand, to get to our 200th bird post of the year!

White-fronted Tern

Scientific Name: Sterna striata

Population Estimate: 1.5M

Range / Habitat: Coasts of New Zealand and Australia.

Field Notes: Pale hooded tern with long black bill and short black or reddish-black legs. Breeding plumage (as above) with black cap separated from bill by white forehead. Black-fronted Tern found inland on South Island and with orange bill.

Personal Notes: A delightful find in Wellington Harbor during a rainy Sunday farmers' market. Maori name Tara.

20 November, 2011

European Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Carduelis carduelis

Population Estimate: 75M - 350M

Range / Habitat: Found in artificial landscapes, grassland, shrubland throughout Europe, most of Asia, and north Africa. Introduced to Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America.

Field Notes: Sexes are similar, and coloration is unmistakable: red face, black and white head, brown upperparts, white underparts with brown flanks and breast patches, and striking black and yellow wings. 

Personal Notes: First seen flocking around thistles on a plateau above Kaikoura. On return to New Zealand, they have been frequently spotted at the Kenepuru campus. 

30 October, 2011


Scientific Name: Strigops habroptila

Population Estimate: 131 individuals in 2011, Critically Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Used to be endemic throughout New Zealand. Now only on a few predator-free islands off the coast. Mating cycle dependent on one specific tree, the rimu, and its erratic fruiting cycle.

Field Notes: Large, nocturnal, flightless. Uses a lek system to mate, the only parrot or flightless bird to do so.

Personal Notes: Probably the only opportunity to see a Kakapo in our lifetimes, this was Sirocco on loan to Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington. The predator-free islands where Kakapo now live in the wild are closed to the public. For more information see http://www.kakaporecovery.org.nz/. Kakapo translates as "night parrot" or "owl parrot" in Maori.

23 October, 2011

European Greenfinch

Scientific Name: Carduelis chloris

Population Estimate: 45M - 150M

Range / Habitat: Widespread throughout Europe, north Africa and southwest Asia in artificial landscapes and shrubland. Some northern populations migrate. Also introduced into both Australia and New Zealand.

Field Notes: Similar in size and shape to a House Sparrow, but greenish color with bright yellow in wings and tail. Female more drab than male. Large, conical, pale bill. Other yellow species in New Zealand is Yellowhammer which has smaller, grey bill and rufous wings and upperparts.

Personal Notes: Seen at the Wellington Botanical Gardens.

03 September, 2011

Brown Teal

Scientific Name: Anas chlorotis

Population Estimate: 910 individuals, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found year-round in select wetlands in Northland, Fiordland, and Great Barrier Island. 

Field Notes: Similar coloration to Chestnut Teal of Australia (rare vagrant to New Zealand) but with white eye ring in both males and females. Mallard larger and without white eye ring. 

Personal Notes: Seen in captivity at Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellington. The Maori name is Pateke.  


Scientific Name: Porphyrio hochstetteri

Population Estimate: 150-220 individuals, Endangered status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand. Year-round in grassland and pastureland in the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland and four predator-free off-shore islands.

Field Notes: Large awkward bird, similar coloration to Purple Swamphen but larger with more prominent beak and shield.

Personal Notes: We missed these birds on our Kapiti Island trip, but soon found these two at Karori Wildlife Sanctuary in Wellington.

30 August, 2011

New Zealand Pipit

Scientific Name: Anthus novaeseelandiae

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Native to New Zealand. Found year-round in grassland and open areas throughout both islands. 

Field Notes: Slender, long-tailed, ground-favoring songbird. Prominent white eyebrow. Head and upperparts brown, underparts white with streaked brown. Frequently flicks tail up and down. Eurasian Skylark similar but with with small crest, less distinct eyebrow, M-shaped wings in flight, and a call which is a torrent of trills and runs. 

Personal Notes: Seen on the east coast of the Wairarpa. Formerly lumped as Richard's Pipit or Australasian Pipit. Not all sources spilt the New Zealand type. Maori name Pihoihoi. 

29 August, 2011

New Zealand Scaup

Scientific Name: Aythya novaeseelandiae

Population Estimate: 5-10K

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand. Found year-round on deep inland freshwater lakes on both islands.

Field Notes: Small blackish diving duck with typical scaup "rubber-duckie" profile. Light blue bill with black tip in both sexes. Male glossy black with yellow eye as above. Female brownish-black with brown eye and vertical white band at base of bill. Both sexes with broad white trailing band in flight. 

Personal Notes: Seen at Lake Tutira on the North Island. Maori name Papango. 

Grey Teal

Scientific Name: Anas gracilis

Population Estimate: 1.0 - 1.1M

Range / Habitat: Found year-round on inland wetlands in New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands.

Field Notes: Slight, graceful dabbling duck. Male and female same coloration: light grey-brown with pale cheeks and neck. Bill blue-grey, eye red. In flight, speculum iridescent dark green with wide white triangle in front. Female Chestnut Teal in Australia has darker check and neck. Male breeding Chestnut Teal different coloration. Less common New Zealand endemic Brown Teal darker overall with white eye ring and no white triangle in front of speculum in flight.

Personal Notes: See at Lake Tutira outside Napier and later at the Miranda Shorebird Center near Auckland. Maori name Tete.

28 August, 2011

Paradise Shelduck

Scientific Name: Tadorna variegata

Population Estimate: 150 - 180K

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found year-round on inland waterways on both islands. 

Field Notes: Large, goose-like dabbling duck with chestnut tail and undertail. Male with glossy black head and finely barred black back. Female with brilliant white head and chestnut body. Rare Chestnut-breasted Shelduck has chestnut breast, black head, and white neck ring in both sexes.

Personal Notes: Seen at a park in Napier. Maori name Putangitangi.

Australian Magpie

Scientific Name: Gymnorhina tibicen

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Year-round in grasslands and artificial landscapes of Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Solomon Islands

Field Notes: Large black and white bird with pale, black-tipped bill and red eye. Magpie-lark smaller with yellow bill and eye. Pied Butcherbird less gregarious with upright posture and white nuchal collar, not patch.

Personal Notes: These birds were much less camera shy in Australia than they are in New Zealand.

Sacred Kingfisher

Scientific Name: Todiramphus sanctus

Population Estimate: 60M

Range / Habitat: Year-round preferring forested areas near water in Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, New Guinea, and several Pacific Islands.

Field Notes: Usually send individually, perched on power line or tree near water. The only Kingfisher in New Zealand, so unmistakable: large bill, blue head and wings, white underparts, thick black band through eye. 

Personal Notes: Known just as Kingfisher in New Zealand. Maori name Kotare.

White-faced Heron

Scientific Name: Egretta novaehollandiae

Population Estimate: 25K - 1M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in a variety of wet coastal and inland environments throughout most of Australasia, including New Guinea, the islands of Torres Strait, Indonesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, the islands of the sub-Antarctic, and Australia. 

Field Notes: Slim blue-grey heron with yellow legs and white face and neck. Bill black. Plumes apparent during breeding season. 

Personal Notes: Seen in Napier area. Self-introduced to New Zealand in the 1940s. Subsequently seen in Australia.

New Zealand Grebe

Scientific Name: Poliocephalus rufopectus

Population Estimate: 1700 - 1800 individuals, Vulnerable status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand. Found year round in sheltered parts of inland lakes and farm ponds on the North Island.

Field Notes: Small freshwater diving bird with distinctive grebe silhouette -- low to water, rounded read end, small pointy bill. This is a dark grebe with fine silver feathers on head and body, yellow eye, rusty neck and breast. Only similar bird in the range is Australasian Grebe, a rare bird in the far north, with a yellow patch of skin between eye and bill.

Personal Notes: Seen at Lake Tutira near Napier. Known as New Zealand Dabchick in New Zealand. Maori name Weweia.

Song Thrush

Scientific Name: Turdus philomelos

Population Estimate: 80M - 200M

Range / Habitat: Partial migrant throughout Europe, most of Asia and northern Africa. Introduced species to Australia and New Zealand, where it lives year-round. Found in forest, shrub land, and artificial habitats.

Field Notes: Medium-sized passerine with typical thrush habitus and behavior. Brown upperparts, buffy breast with bold dark brown spots. Spotted breast differentiates it from other passerines in New Zealand.

Personal Notes: Well-named bird with a beautiful song, seen widely throughout New Zealand. 

Pacific Black Duck

Scientific Name: Anas superciliosa

Population Estimate: 180K - 1.2M

Range / Habitat: Found in marine coastal and inland wetland habitats in much of Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, and many islands in the southwestern Pacific, reaching to the Caroline Islands in the north and French Polynesia in the east. 

Field Notes: Long dabbling duck similar to female Mallard but darker body with pale head and conspicuous black eye stripe with white striping above and below. Sexes similar. Green speculum with black borders and thin white band on trailing edge only. 

Personal Notes: New Zealand name is Grey Duck. Frequently interbreed with Mallard in New Zealand. Maori name is Parera.

Australasian Shoveler

Scientific Name: Anas rhynchotis

Population Estimate: 47K - 210K

Range / Habitat: Found primarily in freshwater lakes in Australia and New Zealand. 

Field Notes: Dabbling duck with heavy spatulate bill. Breeding male as above. Female pale brown all over, streaked and spotted, grey bill. 

Personal Notes: Seen at Gisborne, New Zealand. Maori name is Kuruwhengi.


Scientific Name: Emberiza citrinella

Population Estimate: 70M - 200M

Range / Habitat: Found in a range of open habitats (grassland, shrubland, artificial landscapes) throughout Europe and Asia. Most birds are resident in those areas, though some travel further south in winter. An introduced species in New Zealand

Field Notes: Sparrow-sized bird with yellow head and breast. Dark prominent streaks on head as above. Grey bill. Rufous streaks on chest. Rufous upperparts and rump. White outer tail feathers in flight. Yellowhead has no face or chest markings. European Greenfinch has large, flesh-colored bill, grey cheeks and wings. Cirl Bunting much less yellow and rump greyish-olive. Male Cirl Bunting with black markings on face. 

Personal Notes: Seen on the beach at Gisborne.

White-headed Stilt

Scientific Name: Himantopus leucocephalus

Population Estimate: 330K

Range / Habitat: Found in marine costal and inland wetlands in Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.

Field Notes: Distinctive black and white wader with quite long pink-red legs and long, fine black bill. Head usually all-white, neck white in front, black behind and with open black chest band. Usually a white band across upper back. Wings black.

Personal Notes: Photographed outside of Napier. Split from Black-winged Stilt, though some sources still consider it conspecific. Known as Pied Stilt in New Zealand. Maori name is Poaka.

Black-fronted Dotterel

Scientific Name: Elseyornis melanops

Population Estimate: 17K

Range / Habitat: Inland wetlands in Australia and New Zealand, where it self-introduced in the 1950s. Uncommon in saline estuaries or mudflats.

Field Notes: Typical plover habitus with black eye band and neck ring which connect. Sexes similar and they retain the same plumage all year. Shore Plover similar but with extensive black mask, no neck ring. Ringed Plover similar, and a rare vagrant in this area, but eye band and neck ring do not connect. 

Personal Notes: Seen outside of Napier.

Grey Gerygone

Scientific Name: Gerygone igata

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found year-round in forest and scrub of both islands.

Field Notes: Small songbird with dark grey-brown upperparts, white underneath, tail tipped white. Red eye. Song a distinctive long musical wavering trill that varies by location.

Personal Notes: Known as Grey Warbler in New Zealand. Maori name is Riroriro.


Scientific Name: Acanthisitta chloris

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found on both islands in native forest and scrub, particularly beech and tawa forest. 

Field Notes: Very small bird with short, stumpy tail and thin, slightly upturned bill. Males yellow-green above and females brown above. Both sexes white below with conspicuous white eyebrow strip and yellow wash to flanks.

Personal Notes: Maori name Titipounamu. Seen at Boundary Stream Reserve and later Stewart Island, where Richard took the above photo through a rain streaked lens. 


Scientific Name: Zosterops lateralis

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Found in forest, scrub, and artificial landscapes in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Fiji.

Field Notes: Small bird with conspicuous white eye-ring, found in flocks when not breeding. Head and wings olive-green. Grey on back of neck around to breast. Pink wash on flanks. 

Personal Notes: Hard critter to photograph! Maori name Tauhou.


Scientific Name: Petroica macrocephala

Population Estimate: Unknown, but Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Endemic to New Zealand where found in forest and scrub on both islands. 

Field Notes: Small bird with large head. Head, wings, upperparts black with sharp demarcation to white underparts at breast. Single white wingbar. New Zealand Robin with less demarcation to pale belly and no white wingbar.

Personal Notes: Seen at Boundary Stream "mainland island" reserve in the Hawke's Bay region. Maori name Miromiro on North Island, Ngiru-ngiru on South Island. 

16 August, 2011

Green-winged Teal


Scientific Name: Anas carolinensis

Population Estimate: 6M-7M (for both Eurasian Teal and Green-winged Teal)

Range / Habitat: Smallish dabbling duck of shallow ponds with much vegetation. Summers in northern US, Canada and Alaska. Winters in western and southern US, Mexico and Caribbean Islands.

Field Notes: Green stripe at eye on rust head, grey spotted breast, ivory patch on rear. Similar to the Eurasian Teal (a recent split from the former, larger taxon of Common Teal), though Green-winged Teal has a white vertical shoulder bar (not horizontal bar).

Personal Notes:

09 August, 2011

Brown-capped Rosy Finch

Scientific Name: Leucosticte australis

Population Estimate: 45K

Range / Habitat: Year round above the tree line in mountain peaks of western Colorado.

Field Notes: Medium-sized finch. Cinnamon-brown on back, breast, neck, and face. Black forehead. Red or pink on belly, rump, and in wings. Unmistakable in range -- the highest bird on the mountain.

Personal Notes: Seen at the summit of Pike's Peak.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Scientific Name: Empidonax hammondii

Population Estimate: 13M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Full migrant from montane forest in American West, Canada, and Alaska down to Mexico and Central America.

Field Notes: Olive-colored flycatcher with broad white eye ring, prominent white wing bars, bicolored bill. Similar to Dusky Flycatcher and Grey Flycatcher, but Hammond's nests at higher elevation. Best distinguished by voice.

Personal Notes: A resident bird at Barr Camp on Pike's Peak. Later seen at the higher altitudes on Deseret Ranch, Utah. 

Steller's Jay

Scientific Name: Cyanocitta stelleri

Population Estimate: 4.4M

Range / Habitat: Year-round in montane evergreen forests of western North America, Canada and Mexico.

Field Notes: Noisy, inquisitive and conspicuous like most jays. Coloration is quite dark -- black head and neck with crest and bright blue body. No white markings.

Personal Notes: Richard had been trying to get a photo of this bird for some time. We were finally rewarded at Barr Camp on Pike's Peak. A fitting end to the summer in Wyoming (bottom photo). The top photo was from a group of more subdued jays in Apache-Sitgreaves Forests in Arizona and better demonstrates the plumage and crest. 

25 July, 2011


Scientific Name: Catharus fuscescens

Population Estimate: 14M, Least Concern status

Range / Habitat: Full migrant from damp forests of northern US and southern Canada in summer to most of central northern South America in winter.

Field Notes: Medium-sized thrush, plain brown upperparts, no eye ring, minimal brown spotting on otherwise white underparts. Swainson's Thrush with distinct pale spectacles and more extensive spotting on breast.

Personal Notes: First seen in beautiful Spearfish Canyon, SD. Later found closer to home in Hok-Si-La Park in Lake City, MN.